Hermeneutic phenomenology: A methodology of choice for maker education

Hermeneutic phenomenology provides a framework for me to analyse and illuminate experiences of maker education from secondary school teachers involved in the study, resulting in a much deeper understanding of the nature and meaning of the phenomenon. Using the voices of experienced teachers who have adopted maker education will contribute to the development of unique perspectives and a greater understanding of maker education in secondary schools, so it is an important aspect of my design to have teacher participants as co-researchers. Adopting Gadamer’s hermeneutic circle of understanding (1977) will provide an iterative framework for me to co-construct understanding and interpret data with teachers participating in the study. With this methodology, the researcher and participants are all at the centre of the inquiry and it is here that Gadamer believes that we can breathe new life and insights into the phenomena of maker education.

In Gadamer’s view from Truth and Method (1960), a horizon is defined as a range of vision that includes everything seen from a particular vantage point. On the one hand a person with no horizon does not see far enough and overvalues what is nearest at hand, but somebody with a horizon is able to see beyond what is right in front of them. Questioning is an essential part of the interpretive process in hermeneutic phenomenology, and in this study with teachers as co-researchers there is an opportunity to recreate more than somebody else’s meaning. Using the hermeneutic circle of understanding can transform the data collected into findings that are a fusion of horizons from everybody involved in the study, including the lived experiences of me as a researcher and teacher participants.

For this study, I have chosen hermeneutic phenomenological methodology because it allows me to uncover rich descriptions and personal meanings of lived experiences related to maker education in secondary schools. Whilst problem-based methodology can be used in education research to contribute to the improvement of teaching and learning, I used the approach during one of the EdD taught modules for a small qualitative study with one teacher to examine the effectiveness of pair programming in the classroom to teach programming. Although the data collected during a one hour single interview was sufficient to draw out themes from the coding, I felt I had missed the opportunity to gain further professional insights from the teacher’s lived experiences that might have uncovered more about the phenomenon that was being researched. I’ve also considered a case study approach, allowing the development of a detailed portrayal and case analysis of one teacher or practitioners across several schools, but this doesn’t fully meet the requirements of focusing on experiences as lived.

The value of co-production of knowledge with teachers is a fundamental element to my axiological perspective and hermeneutic phenomenological interviewing will support my intention to gain teachers’ experiences of the topic and build an emic perspective of maker education in secondary school settings. However, with an insider perspective as a researcher, transparency will be central to my approach as I conduct the research without influencing methodology and research design by projecting my own views onto teachers. Adopting hermeneutic phenomenology, I can explicitly bring in my own experiences of maker education and use the multiple stages of interpretation and discussion using the hermeneutic circle with participants of how interpretations arise from the data, to add rigour to the study.  I have decided to journal during the pilot stage of a hermeneutic phenomenological study and if it turns out to be an effective mechanism to make any personal biases explicit then I will continue throughout the larger EdD study. Journaling from the start of the study any of my pre-understandings about maker education prior to data collection and analysis will be a useful way to keep abreast of revisions in my own thinking of the phenomena in relation to teacher experiences examined. I will acknowledge potential bias and be critically reflective to make sure that knowledge is well founded in evidence, thus ensuring trustworthiness of data collected. This will help me to conscientiously negotiate the space between insider and qualitative researcher and my positioning as having a background as a teacher but not working in one school full-time now will be apparent throughout the research process. Openness about my professional experiences as an insider with teachers, headteachers, educators in the community and partnerships with industry will add credibility and strength to methods and is of paramount importance to me as a researcher.

References

Gadamer, H.G., 1960. Truth and Method.

Gadamer, H.G., 1977. Heidegger’s Later Philosophy. Philosophical hermeneutics, pp.213-28.

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